HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. — The Bearcats’ shooting touch was off after a long layoff. The defense was crisp as always, allowing them to have an easy time extending their streak.
Gary Clark had 13 points and 10 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the season, and Jarron Cumberland scored 15 points, leading No. 21 Cincinnati to an 82-48 victory over Memphis on Sunday that prolonged the nation’s longest active home-court winning streak.
Playing their first game in 10 days, the Bearcats (12-2, 1-0 American Athletic) came out rusty but turned up the defense and were in control by halftime.
“We were excited to play basketball, and play it the right way,” said Jacob Evans III, who had 12 points and six assists.
Clark had an alley-oop dunk and a 3-pointer that started a 15-2 run late in the half, pushing Cincinnati’s lead to 20 points. The Tigers shot three air balls during the spurt as the Bearcats’ defense took control. Cumberland hit a jumper and a 3-pointer as the Bearcats padded the lead to 30 points early in the second half.
“We looked rusty on offense early with Gary and Kyle (Washington) missing some shots,” coach Mick Cronin said. “We passed the ball well the entire game. If you continue to pass it well, you’re going to get some open shots.”
The Bearcats were picked to win the AAC — a slight favorite over newcomer Wichita State — and played up to expectations defensively.
Memphis (9-5, 0-1) had its worst showing of the season on offense, finishing with its fewest points and a season-low 32 percent shooting from the field. The Tigers were only 4 of 22 from beyond the arc. Kareem Brewton Jr. led Memphis with 17 points.
“We just weren’t ready,” coach Tubby Smith said. “I thought we came ready, but we were intimidated early on, especially with our turnovers. We played so poorly, shot so poorly, and against a good team like Cincinnati, they will make you look bad and they’ll beat you like this if you have any letdown at all.”
The Bearcats have won 34 straight home games on two courts. They’ve gone 8-0 while playing this season at BB&T Arena at Northern Kentucky University while their on-campus arena is renovated. They went 18-0 at Fifth Third Arena last season.
Memphis: The inexperienced Tigers are still getting accustomed to playing on the road. The conference opener was only their second true road game of the season. They lost at UAB 71-56 on Nov. 20. Memphis has only two returning letter winners, tied for fewest in the country.
Cincinnati: The Bearcats were missing point guard Cane Broome, sidelined by a sprained ankle. Justin Jenifer played 23 minutes and had seven points with four assists. Evans also filled in at point guard when Jenifer was on the bench.
“It’s a position I played in high school,” Evans said. “I’m pretty comfortable there.”
Smith coached his first game in the Bluegrass State since Feb. 28, 2007, when he led Kentucky to an 82-70 win over Georgia. Smith coached the Wildcats from 1997-2007.
Cincinnati’s Keith Williams and Memphis’ David Nickelberry banged heads while going for a loose ball early in the game. Nickelberry went to the locker room for treatment and returned with a bandage over his right eye. He returned and played a total of 14 minutes and missed his only shot.
Clark has 22 career double-doubles, the most by a Cincinnati player since Yancy Gates had 23 from 2009-12.
Cronin sent Rick Pitino a Bearcats shirt and is trying to get him to attend a practice and address the team when it’s in Florida later this month. Cronin was an assistant to Pitino at Louisville before becoming a head coach.
Memphis: At Central Florida on Wednesday night.
Cincinnati: At Temple on Thursday night.